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Posted July 22, 2011
In many Asian restaurants around my city (and probably yours) you will find the Lucky Cat, a figurine of a cat with it's paw raised in a wave. I've always wondered what it was about and my friends would always say that it brings luck.
I am Tama, Lucky Cat, tells the tale of the Lucky Cat. It is beautifully illustrated and the story itself is sweet and charming. It is based on the Maneki Neko, and illustrates one of the many stories of origin of the sculpture. It is a great way to understand the legend (or at least one of the many legends) behind the familiar icon.
This is a very quick read for parents and children to read together. I would recommend it for all children, especially as a tool for broadening cultural boundaries.
Posted June 6, 2011
I Am Tama, Lucky Cat is based on a Japanese legend and it reads like a fable. Tama arrives at a temple looking for food and shelter. What she finds is a poor monk willing to share the few things he has. Tama feels like a lucky cat for having found this master and his broken temple. They share everything and Tama helps by keeping their small food supply free from mice and warming her master with her fur coat. The monk feels blessed, having been found by a rare black and orange colored Japanese Bobcat.
During a storm, Tama inexplicably runs out of their beat up shelter. The place needed a major overhaul. The monk calls her back but Tama sits at the gate of the temple and washes her face. According to Japanese lore, a cat washing her face is foreshadowing the arrival of visitors. Soon, a samurai warrior, riding a white, steed arrives at the temple looking for shelter. Upon seeing the shape of the temple, the warrior decides to take shelter under one of the blooming cherry trees. Soon he sees Tama with her right paw up in her sign of welcome and the warrior leaves the tree to see her. As he gets to the temple gate, a lightning bolt hits the tree he had staken shelter under.
The warrior believes Tama to be a lucky cat; she saved his live and the life of his horse. Forever grateful the warrior fixes the temple bringing it back to its former glory. He makes sure the monk and Tama never want for another thing. The warrior also brings in new people to worship at the temple. Tama is truly a lucky cat for the warrior and for the monk and his temple.
The cat with its right paw held up is a common symbol in Japan. Many Japanese businesses will have such a cat figurine to beckon customers inside. The legend of the Beckoning Cat, called Maneki Neko in Japanese, is more than a legend. In Japan, there is a place called The Beckoning Cat Temple, which bears a gravestone and a shrine to the lucky cat. Also buried there is the warlord who was the real warrior in the story.
The illustrations have an oriental look and feel. The portrait of the lightning striking is magnificent. It looks more like a museum piece than an illustration for a children's book. That page alone is worth getting the book. This is a well-written story from the cat's point of view. It is a fast read and could easily become your child's favorite nighttime story.
Note: received from netgalley, courtesy of the publisher
Posted April 10, 2011
Wendy Henrichs has elegantly captured one of the possible origins of Maneki Neko, the Japanese waving cat, in I Am Tama, Lucky Cat: A Japanese Legend. This poignant tale, told with a light lyrical prose and combined with Yoshiko Jaeggi's beautiful watercolors, creates a lovely picture book to enjoy with children. While I've often seen Japanese waving cats, I've never realized the signifigance behind the story. Children and parents alike will appreciate that even someone small can make a great difference.
Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided by Peachtree Publishers.